Ron and Hermione sat themselves down opposite him, looking happier than they
had done since he had first arrived at Grimmauld Place, and Harry's feeling
of giddy relief, which had been somewhat dented by his encounter with Lucius
Malfoy, swelled again. The gloomy house seemed warmer and more welcoming all
of a sudden; even Kreacher looked less ugly as he poked his snoutlike nose into
the kitchen to investigate the source of all the noise.
'Course, once Dumbledore turned up on your side, there was no way they were
going to convict you,' said Ron happily, now dishing great mounds of mashed
potato on to everyone's plates.
'Yeah, he swung it for me,' said Harry. He felt it would sound highly ungrateful,
not to mention childish, to say, 'I wish he'd talked to me, though. Or even
looked at me.'
And as he thought this, the scar on his forehead burned so badly that he
clapped his hand to it.
'What's up?' said Hermione, looking alarmed.
'Scar,' Harry mumbled. 'But it's nothing: it happens all the time now:'
None of the others had noticed a thing; all of them were now helping themselves
to food while gloating over Harry's narrow escape; Fred, George and Ginny were
still singing. Hermione looked rather anxious, but before she could say anything,
Ron had said happily, 'I bet Dumbledore turns up this evening, to celebrate
with us, you know.'
'I don't think he'll be able to, Ron,' said Mrs Weasley, setting a huge plate
of roast chicken down in front of Harry. 'He's really very busy at the moment.'
'HE GOT OFF, HE GOT OFF, HE GOT OFF
'SHUT UP!' roared Mrs Weasley.
* * *
Over the next few days Harry could not help noticing that there was one person
within number twelve, Grimmauld Place, who did not seem wholly overjoyed that
he would be returning to Hogwarts. Sirius had put up a very good show of happiness
on first hearing the news, wringing Harry's hand and beaming just like the rest
of them. Soon, however, he was moodier and surlier than before, talking less
to everybody, even Harry, and spending increasing amounts of time shut up in
his mother's room with Buckbeak.
'Don't you go feeling guilty!' said Hermione sternly, after Harry had confided
some of his feelings to her and Ron while they scrubbed out a mouldy cupboard
on the third floor a few days later. 'You belong at Hogwarts and Sirius knows
it. Personally, I think he's being selfish.'
That's a bit harsh, Hermione,' said Ron, frowning as he attempted to prise
off a bit of mould that had attached itself firmly to his finger, 'you wouldn't
want to be stuck inside this house without any company.'
'He'll have company!' said Hermione. 'It's Headquarters to the Order of the
Phoenix, isn't it? He just got his hopes up that Harry would be coming to live
here with him.'
'I don't think that's true', said Harry, wringing out his cloth. 'He wouldn't
give me a straight answer when I asked him if I could.'
'He just didn't want to get his own hopes up even more,' said Hermione wisely.
'And he probably felt a bit guilty himself, because I think a part of him was
really hoping you'd be expelled. Then you'd both be outcasts together.'
'Come off it!' said Harry and Ron together, but Hermione merely shrugged.
'Suit yourselves. But I sometimes think Ron's mum's right and Sirius gets
confused about whether you're you or your father, Harry.'
'So you think he's touched in the head?' said Harry heatedly.
'No, I just think he's been very lonely for a long time,' said Hermione simply.
At this point, Mrs Weasley entered the bedroom behind them.
'Still not finished?' she said, poking her head into the cupboard.
'I thought you might be here to tell us to have a break!' said Ron bitterly.
'D'you know how much mould we've got rid of since we arrived here?'
'You were so keen to help the Order,' said Mrs Weasley, 'you can do your
bit by making Headquarters fit to live in.'
'I feel like a house-elf,' grumbled Ron.
'Well, now you understand what dreadful lives they lead, perhaps you'll be
a bit more active in SPEW!' said Hermione hopefully, as Mrs Weasley left them
to it. 'You know, maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to show people exactly how
horrible it is to clean all the time - we could do a sponsored scrub of Gryffindor
common room, all proceeds to SPEW, it would raise awareness as well as funds.'
'I'll sponsor you to shut up about SPEW,' Ron muttered irritably, but only
so Harry could hear him.
* * *
Harry found himself daydreaming about Hogwarts more and more as the end of
the holidays approached; he could not wait to see Hagrid again, to play Quidditch,
even to stroll across the vegetable patches to the Herbology greenhouses; it
would be a treat just to leave this dusty, musty house, where half of the cupboards
were still bolted shut and Kreacher wheezed insults out of the shadows as you
passed, though Harry was careful not to say any of this within earshot of Sirius.
The fact was that living at the Headquarters of the anti-Voldemort movement
was not nearly as interesting or exciting as Harry would have expected before
he'd experienced it. Though members of the Order of the Phoenix came and went
regularly, sometimes staying for meals, sometimes only for a few minutes of
whispered conversation, Mrs Weasley made sure that Harry and the others were
kept well out of earshot (whether Extendable or normal) and nobody, not even
Sirius, seemed to feel that Harry needed to know anything more than he had heard
on the night of his arrival.
On the very last day of the holidays Harry was sweeping up Hedwig's owl droppings
from the top of the wardrobe when Ron entered their bedroom carrying a couple
'Booklists have arrived,' he said, throwing one of the envelopes up to Harry,
who was standing on a chair. 'About time, I thought they'd forgotten, they usually
come much earlier than this:"
Harry swept the last of the droppings into a rubbish bag and threw the bag
over Ron's head into the wastepaper basket in the corner, which swallowed it
and belched loudly. He then opened his letter. It contained two pieces of parchment:
one the usual reminder that term started on the first of September; the other
telling him which books he would need for the coming year.
'Only two new ones,' he said, reading the list, The Standard Book of Spells,
Grade 5, by Miranda Goshawk, and Defensive Magical Theory, by Wilbert Slinkhard.'
Fred and George Apparated right beside Harry. He was so used to them doing
this by now that he didn't even fall off his chair.
'We were just wondering who set the Slinkhard book,' said Fred conversationally.
'Because it means Dumbledore's found a new Defence Against the Dark Arts
teacher,' said George.
'And about time too,' said Fred.
'What d'you mean?' Harry asked, jumping down beside them.
'Well, we overheard Mum and Dad talking on the Extendable Ears a few weeks
back,' Fred told Harry, 'and from what they were saying, Dumbledore was having
real trouble finding anyone to do the job this year.
'Not surprising, is it, when you look at what's happened to the last four?'
'One sacked, one dead, one's memory removed and one locked in a trunk for
nine months,' said Harry, counting them off on his fingers. 'Yeah, I see what
'What's up with you, Ron?' asked Fred.
Ron did not answer. Harry looked round. Ron was standing very still with
his mouth slightly open, gaping at his letter from Hogwarts.
'What's the matter?' said Fred impatiently, moving around Ron to look over
his shoulder at the parchment.
Fred's mouth fell open, too.
'Prefect?' he said, staring incredulously at the letter. 'Prefect?'
George leapt forwards, seized the envelope in Ron's other hand and turned
it upside-down. Harry saw something scarlet and gold fall into George's palm.
'No way,' said George in a hushed voice.
There's been a mistake,' said Fred, snatching the letter out of Ron's grasp
and holding it up to the light as though checking for a watermark. 'No one in
their right mind would make Ron a prefect.'
The twins' heads turned in unison and both of them stared at Harry.
'We thought you were a cert!' said Fred, in a tone that suggested Harry had
tricked them in some way.
'We thought Dumbledore was bound to pick you!' said George indignantly.
'Winning the Triwizard and everything!' said Fred.
'I suppose all the mad stuff must've counted against him,' said George to
'Yeah,' said Fred slowly. 'Yeah, you've caused too much trouble, mate. Well,
at least one of you's got their priorities right.'
He strode over to Harry and clapped him on the back while giving Ron a scathing
'Prefect: ickle Ronnie the Prefect.'
'Ohh, Mum's going to be revolting,' groaned George, thrusting the prefect
badge back at Ron as though it might contaminate him.
Ron, who still had not said a word, took the badge, stared at it for a moment,
then held it out to Harry as though asking mutely for confirmation that it was
genuine. Harry took it. A large T' was superimposed on the Gryffindor lion.
He had seen a badge just like this on Percy's chest on his very first day at
The door banged open. Hermione came tearing into the room, her cheeks flushed
and her hair flying. There was an envelope in her hand.
'Did you - did you get -?'
She spotted the badge in Harry's hand and let out a shriek.
'I knew it!' she said excitedly, brandishing her letter. 'Me too, Harry,
'No,' said Harry quickly, pushing the badge back into Ron's hand. 'It's Ron,
'It - what?'
'Ron's prefect, not me,' Harry said.
'Ron?' said Hermione, her jaw dropping. 'But: are you sure? I mean -'
She turned red as Ron looked round at her with a defiant expression on his
'It's my name on the letter,' he said.
'I:' said Hermione, looking thoroughly bewildered. 'I: well: wow! Well done,
Ron! That's really -'
'Unexpected,' said George, nodding.
'No,' said Hermione, blushing harder than ever, 'no it's not: Ron's done
loads of: he's really:'
The door behind her opened a little wider and Mrs Weasley backed into the
room carrying a pile of freshly laundered robes.
'Ginny said the booklists had come at last,' she said, glancing around at
all the envelopes as she made her way over to the bed and started sorting the
robes into two piles. 'If you give them to me I'll take them over to Diagon
Alley this afternoon and get your books while you're packing. Ron, I'll have
to get you more pyjamas, these are at least six inches too short, I can't believe
how fast you're growing: what colour would you like?'
'Get him red and gold to match his badge,' said George, smirking.
'Match his what?' said Mrs Weasley absently, rolling up a pair of maroon
socks and placing them on Ron's pile.
'His badge,' said Fred, with the air of getting the worst over quickly. 'His
lovely shiny new prefect's badge.'
Fred's words took a moment to penetrate Mrs Weasley's preoccupation with
'His: but: Ron, you're not:?'
Ron held up his badge.
Mrs Weasley let out a shriek just like Hermione's.
'I don't believe it! I don't believe it! Oh, Ron, how wonderful! A prefect!
That's everyone in the family!'
'What are Fred and I, next-door neighbours?' said George indignantly, as
his mother pushed him aside and flung her arms around her youngest son.
'Wait until your father hears! Ron, I'm so proud of you, what wonderful news,
you could end up Head Boy just like Bill and Percy, it's the first step! Oh,
what a thing to happen in the middle of all this worry, I'm just thrilled, oh,
Fred and George were both making loud retching noises behind her back but
Mrs Weasley did not notice; arms tight around Ron's neck, she was kissing him
all over his face, which had turned a brighter scarlet than his badge.
'Mum: don't: Mum, get a grip:' he muttered, trying to push her away.
She let go of him and said breathlessly, 'Well, what will it be? We gave
Percy an owl, but you've already got one, of course.'
W-what do you mean?' said Ron, looking as though he did not dare believe
'You've got to have a reward for this!' said Mrs Weasley fondly. 'How about
a nice new set of dress robes?'
'We've already bought him some,' said Fred sourly, who looked as though he
sincerely regretted this generosity.
'Or a new cauldron, Charlie's old one's rusting through, or a new rat, you
always liked Scabbers -'
'Mum,' said Ron hopefully, 'can I have a new broom?'
Mrs Weasley's face fell slightly; broomsticks were expensive.
'Not a really good one!' Ron hastened to add. 'Just -just a new one for a
Mrs Weasley hesitated, then smiled.
'Of course you can: well, I'd better get going if I've got a broom to buy
too. I'll see you all later: little Ronnie, a prefect! And don't forget to pack
your trunks: a prefect: oh, I'm all of a dither!'